Category Archives: Schools

SVUSD Personel cuts 2005-2010

The district has released data reflecting the impact of many years of consecutive cuts. Sad.

The community needs to find ways to engage people, what do you think will do that?

Note: Fractional numbers represent a reduction in the number of hours for the specified position. Whole numbers represent individuals.

2.5 School Custodians
1.6 District Maintenance
0.4 Transportation
0.5 Business Office
2   Library Clerks
0.75 Secretary/Clerical (0.25 each at Middle school, high school and District Office)
0.5 High school campus Supervision
3.5 Instructional Assistants - General Ed
15  Elementary teachers
2.9 Middle School teachers
7.6 High School Teachers
1   Elementary School Counselor
0.4 Middle School Counselor
0.6 High School Counselor
0.5 Assistant Principal


What has been the effect of layoffs on Scotts Valley Unified over the years?

The district has released data reflecting the impact of many years of consecutive cuts.

2.5 School Custodians
1.6 District Maintenance
0.4 Transportation
0.5 Business Office
2   Library Clerks
0.75 Secretary/Clerical (0.25 each at MS, HS & District Office)
0.5 High school campus Supervision
3.5 Instructional Assistants - General Ed
15  Elementary teachers
2.9 Middle School teachers
7.6 High School Teachers
1   Elementary School Counselor
0.4 Middle School Counselor
0.6 High School Counselor
0.5 Assistant Principal


Why not demand teacher retirements?

What incentives are in place for teachers to retire?

Can volunteers come in and help with the library, custodial, etc. positions that have been cut?

What is the relationship between the Superintendent and teacher union leadership?

How much is saved if school staff take a 1 or 2 day furlough?

One furlough day for the District office is roughly $11,000 and one SVEA furlough day is $50,000 for the entire district. These numbers are based on conversations I (Steve Trefethen) have had with the district office employees during the 2010 Strategic Planning meeting. Dr. Silver was also quoted in the Santa Cruz Sentinel regarding the $11,000 figure for the District Office Staff.
The SVEA (Teacher’s Union) has voted against furlough days for 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 whereas the District office took two furlough days in 2009-2010 and will take an additional two days in 2010-2011. The district office has indicated a willingness to take additional days in 2010-2011 if the SVEA were to take furlough days.
Recently the Scotts Valley Education Foundation (SVEF) sent the following email to the district outlining the severity of the cuts required to avoid the expected $950K shortfall for 2011-2012. Notice the impact of furlough days on the teacher’s union.

What can be done to solidify the alliance between the board, superintendent, and teachers?

How are teachers holding up with the larger class sizes? 

How can we get more classroom aides (or whatever we call them now)?

What is the cost to the district for retiree health benefits?

A study was done by Total Compensation System regarding retiree benefits for SVUSD. The results have been publish by the district here. As you can see from these results retirement benefits for current employees is currently (Jan 2011) not being funded which will cost the district more over the long term.

Understanding the magnitude of the SVUSD budget crisis

The chart below puts into perspective how difficult it will be to use fundraising as a means to offset the SVUSD budget crisis. The pie equals $950,000 with the level of current fundraising dollars ($78,000 as of Jan. 27, 2011) carved out. As you can see total fundraising for the year represents less than 1/10th or just 8.2% of the projected shortfall. Unfortunately, the scale used on the thermometers posted around the district severely mask affect fundraising has had at offsetting the shortfall. I’ve included the thermometer used on the SVEF website here for comparison using a linear scale for comparison. The whole point of this post and this site is to ensure that people have accurate information. While having the signs around the district is a fantastic idea I think the impression is misleading.
I’ll note these numbers do not include dollars raised to be raised at the upcoming auctions. However, those dollars are PTA dollars (vs. SVEF) and therefore typically used to pay for programs at their respective elementary schools.

Fundraising Thermometer

For comparison here is the sign by the Scotts Valley Middle School.
SVEF Dollar a day

Scotts Valley School District Community Poll Results

Screen shot 2011-01-21 at 10.51.50 PMThe results of the recent poll authorized by the Scotts Valley School District were presented to the community on Wednesday January 19th. The district was advised to move forward though only after a sustained community outreach campaign to ensure passage of a parcel tax measure. I won’t rehash all the numbers as they’re covered well in the above link. The base level of support was found to be 68% with a 6% margin of error.

On the up side the survey provides a wealth of information regarding how to best shape a measure to yield the desired results that will be incorporated into all the work that’s already been done to this point.

Bottom Line

These results indicate there’s a lot of hard work yet to be done to reach a point where it’s worth asking the voters of Scotts Valley to support a parcel tax.

With Jerry Brown’s pending “fasten your seatbelts” budget things are likely to get very ugly sooner rather than later.

If you’re not already involved feel free to contact me for ways in which you can help.

Thoughts on a Parcel Tax

I’ve spent a great deal of time working to understand the issues facing public schools in Scotts Valley and thinking about the options available to the community to mitigate the budget crisis. Throughout the process I’ve gathered and published answers to many questions, attended many meetings, spoken with lots of people and given the variety of socio-economic hurdles we currently face I’m struggling to justify continuing to push forward with a parcel tax proposal. Here are the factors that I see affecting these efforts:

  • Economic Climate
    California voters nearly unanimously rejected new taxes by defeating16 of 18 parcel taxes this past election and neither the economy nor voter sentiment can be expected to improve measurably in the immediate time frame currently under consideration for SVUSD (first half of 2010).
  • State budget crisis
    The state of California is in the midst of a fiscal disaster further complicated by a flawed public school financing and unless the Federal Government comes to the rescue yet again no reasonable person can assume Sacramento is going to “right the ship” any time soon. The situation is further exacerbated by the pending changes in Sacramento where turmoil is likely to rule the day. Forecasting the projected need becomes a dart game which doesn’t help when you’re trying to explain to voters why you need the amount you’re asking for. At the end of the last school year we were discussing a $950K shortfall for two consecutive years, with the new state “budget” that number has decreased by over $100K based on imaginary figures from our governor and legislature.
  • Community Apathy
    Having put in many hours attending a wide variety of meetings, building this website and setting up Organizing for Scotts Valley Schools I’ve come to realize while people are concerned about class sizes my sense is this crisis hasn’t reached beyond a fleeting interest for a majority of people. Over the last two weeks the school district held five very lightly attended community meetings to engage and educate Scotts Valley residents a fact that does not bode well despite district wide email and newspaper advertising. Likewise many, if not most of the meetings I attend draw a small group of usual suspects, an issue often raised, which speaks to people’s overall level of interest.
  • Competing interests
    There are various organizations associated with the district’s four schools essentially competing for the same fundraising dollar. Naturally parents are more likely to donate to their child’s school for supplies and programs like art, music and sports often to the detriment of the SVEF or the District itself.
  • Lack of financial transparency
    With four schools in SVUSD there are, at a minimum, five organizations (PTA’s and SVEF) with five separate balance sheets not readily available to the public via the web or other medium. The lack of transparency makes it difficult at best to understand the flow of dollars at the various schools. One issue this raises is that many times people are confused regarding which organization they should donate to especially when site specific fundraising overlaps with district wide efforts such as Dollar-A-Day (DAD).
  • Guidance from the District
    While I’ve attended numerous meetings where the Administration has laid out a thoughtful and considered presentation on its financial state there seems to be a dearth of guidance as to how the community should or could approach tackling the problems at hand. Public school financing is so overly complicated reliance on those with deep knowledge of the subject seems critical and I’d like to see the district take a more proactive approach to guiding community efforts surrounding a parcel tax or other fund raising efforts. This could be a catch-22 considering the third bullet item above.
  • Ongoing perception of poor communication
    Unfortunately, the perception persists that communication is inadequate. In some cases this is threaded into the fabric of the district as a result of union contracts and things such as adherence to rules dictating decorum at public meetings. Although again, I’d refer back to bullet item 3 above. It’s hard to spark conversation with an apathetic audience.

It’s hard to imagine a more adverse set of circumstances under which to move forward with a parcel tax initiative. Last May/June I was buoyed by the fact a parcel tax could serve as a viable bridge to better times but the last several months have curtailed that optimism. While I continue to believe a parcel tax is the only viable avenue large enough to thwart further cuts the required 66 2/3% seems unfortunately beyond grasp until at least some of the above items are resolved.

Where do things stand

At this point, the district has been asked to price a professional community-centric poll which would run in the range of $10-20K. The results of the poll are intended to help guide the Board in determining whether or not to move forward, test ballot language, set an amount and gauge community sentiment. In addition to polling costs placing a measure on the  ballot isn’t free and would likely run into the thousands if not 10’s of thousands. My understanding is the district would spend upwards of $30-40K to get a measure in front of voters. The number would vary depending on the type of survey conducted and type of ballot used (mail-in vs. polling place) and although these funds could come from outside the district it’s difficult to assume the community could find alternative funding to hit a February 4th cutoff date for the earliest possible vote in 2011.

SVUSD Facilities FAQ

What caused the SVHS to go over budget and be so poorly constructed?

Has the developer impact fee money been misspent on portables?

How are the developer fees determined and how often?

Here is an article discussing the developer fees.

Why doesn’t the state pay for new school construction? What about matching funds?

What is modernization and can we do that?

If we raised enough revenue to hire back more teachers, is there space for the extra classrooms?

Can the district offices be moved onto an existing campus, to save on rent?


OFSVS Update #3 August 2010

Steve Trefethen just sent supporters the following message:

Hi Everyone,
Hope this latest update finds you all enjoying the Summer! The last OFSVS update was May 23rd, 2010 and recently there has been quite a bit of activity related to the school board I wanted to bring to your attention. First, there are now two openings on the SVUSD school board for which there are only two community members (John Abel and Art Bubb) running meaning unless other candidates register there will be no election and the two new members will simply join the board.

Additionally, with the introduction of Bubb and Abel, we learn of a new political action committee formed by Derek Timm with a press release on Mr. Abel’s website consistent with Derek’s publicly stated opinion on Dr. Silver appearing in our local press.

Along with this OFSVS letter I’ve just written a post reflecting my experience working with the leadership of the district which has been dramatically different from that of Derek’s. The reality is SVUSD is faced with enormous challenges and it’s important to understand, regardless of who holds the  leadership positions, they’ll likely be tasked at times with making unpopular and difficult decisions regarding people’s careers and the future of students in the District.

Community Day
Please remember Community Day is September 18th!

OFSVS Blog Posts Since May

Reality Check
Scotts Valley Community Day 2010
Santa Cruz County School Board Openings
2010 Music At Skypark
Scotts Valley Unified School District Salary Comparison
California School District Furloughs
Effort To Reduce Parcel Tax Passage Rate To 55% Fails For November
Coffee Talk Questions In Need Of Answers
Scotts Valley District Office Staff Offers Two Furlough Days For 2010-2011
Community Fundraising Meeting June 1, 2010
Cupertino’s Their Future Is Now – How They Did I

OFSVS Members Update
There are now 32 people (up from 20) throughout Scotts Valley on this mailing! If you can please continue to spread the information about this group and help engage more people throughout our community.

Please let me know if you would like to see specific information posted to the site or if you’re interested in posti

ng items of interest I’d be happy to work with you. As always please feel free to forward this email to anyone who you feel is interested.

Apologies in for this late summer interruption but I felt several of the above items “newsworthy” and in the interest open communication on which this effort is based felt it necessary.

Enjoy the few remaining weeks of Summer!

Join Now!
On Twitter

Reality Check

Given the economic environment the Scotts Valley School district finds itself in, it would come as no surprise employees not feeling very good about their plight. Having spent 15 years at Borland, a now defunct Scotts Valley stalwart, I know first hand what’s it’s like to weather a dozen years of layoffs, downsizing, lack of employee continuing education, shrinking benefits, static salaries and rock bottom morale etc. It’s not fun and strangles effective communication.

In the midst of an economic downturn paralleled only by the Great Depression many people, companies and organizations are struggling with morale and I’d expect the Scotts Valley’s Teacher’s union is no exception. Like all CA school districts SVUSD has weathered significant cutbacks for many consecutive years with several more to come and if you look closely, which I have, I believe you’ll find this Administration (and Board) seem to be responsibly managing the district’s declining resources despite California’s over complicated and deeply flawed Public school financing system evidenced by the fact other local schools face massive deficits this year. By 2011-2012 the the state’s dire fiscal situation is poised to send 100’s of school districts into qualified if not negative certification (meaning deficit spending) which is where SVUSD will land unless options such as a parcel tax are passed to prevent such an outcome. Unless the State of California can miraculously turn around in the next 16 months its Public schools, which educate 1 in 8 children in the United States will require a Federal bailout
Fortunately, Scotts Valley has a very small school district thus there are a variety of avenues for establishing dialog with the key players. While the Scotts Valley Banner is an option in a tiny city like ours I’ve personally found it very effective to directly engage the members of the Board and individuals at the District office face-to-face affording me the opportunity to foster trust, gain an understanding and grasp the magnitude of the challenges they face running a school system shackled by our state’s fiscal bureaucracy. I’ve met with or spoken to all but one of the SV Board members and have spent several hours at the district office pouring over the budget or discussing it with the CBO and have found everyone to be dedicated and willing to indulge my frequent requests for information. I spent an eight hour weekday at the District’s Strategic Planning meeting, a process Dr. Silver brought to Scotts Valley, to ensure it was heading in the right direction based on feedback from students, teachers, staff, Board members, and community members. I don’t recall seeing any of the most outspoken people in the community at the meeting though admittedly I didn’t know everyone in the room. That day was spent examining, discussing and approving the mission of the district with a large emphasis on finding solutions to the immediate fiscal crisis.
Lastly, regarding the Superintendent’s job, a position for which SVUSD pays less than other similar sized districts (refer to SARC data), I imagine it to be very tough requiring a wide variety of skills to deal with children, teachers, classified staff, unions, boards and the public (I’m sure I’m missing several other categories). While I don’t know the entire history of the current SV Superintendent I know that when difficult fiscal decisions are to be made all eyes will be on that individual whomever it may be at the time and there are bound to be lots of passionately unhappy people despite their best efforts.
For instance, just grasp this quote from “Getting Down to Facts: School Finance and Governance in California” about California’s public school financing system:
A complex and irrational finance system. The number of dollars available to each school district is largely an historical artifact of spending in the 1970s combined with confusing categorical grant programs. As a result, similar districts can receive substantially different revenues per  pupil, and differences in student needs across districts are not systematically accounted for in determining revenue levels. In addition, the finance system is extraordinarily complex and imposes substantial and costly compliance burdens on school districts. Pre-dating the implementation of modern accountability systems, the current finance structure has never been updated to align with the states accountability system, nor redesigned to help local officials meet student performance goals.

As much as some may want to scrap the Board and Superintendent the problems the district faces are likely to worsen leaving whomever we manage to elect/hire with unmitigated and ongoing problems not to mention having to start from scratch with all the aforementioned groups. In my opinion, working with those who were dedicated enough to have sought these positions, particularly our unpaid Board is the path I’ve chosen.


Scotts Valley Community Day 2010

The Scotts Valley Education Foundation (SVEF) is gathering support for a Community Day on Saturday September 18th. The idea is to have the community as a whole raise funds for Scotts Valley Unified School district through business donations and personal efforts such as yard sales.

What: Community Day Details
When: September 18, 2010
Participating Businesses

Updated August 2, 2010: Santa Cruz Sentinel article on the SV Community Day